The Physical Crisis
We've looked at some introductory features of this book.
- Time - It could have been written as late as the time of the Jewish exile in Babylon (6th to 5th century BC), however, it describes a series of events that took place around the time of the Patriarchs (1900-1800 BC).
- Story - The story is about a good man who suffers great calamity and loss through no fault of his own.
- Characters - The main characters are God and the Devil, along with Job who is the main character, his wife who plays a minor role, and then there are three of his friends as well as a fourth person who comment on his condition.
- Plot - The plot is mainly compromised of a series of dialogues and monologues that move the story along.
- Prologue - 1
- God and the Devil - 2 sets
- Job and his wife - 1 set
- Job and his friends - 3 sets
- The young man Elihu - 1 monologue
- God and Job - 2 sets of dialogue
- Epilogue - 1
These seven sections introduce the character, Job; the setting of his life; the various crises and how they are handled, interpreted and finally resolved. We also considered a variety of outlines that could be used to guide us in our study:
- Formal Detailed Outline
- Takes into account every event in chronological order and includes each verse.
- Compressed Outline
- Main ideas
- Job's Distress - Ch. 1-3
- Job's Defense - Ch. 4-37
- Job's Deliverance - Ch. 38-42
- Main ideas
- Thematic Outline
- Based upon and develops the theme of the book.
- "Faithful Living in Times of Crisis"
- The Physical Crisis
- The Devil's attack - Ch. 1-3
- The Theological Crisis
- Job's friends attack - Ch. 4-37
- The Spiritual Crisis
- God challenges Job - Ch. 38:1-41:34
- Job's faith saves him - 42:1-17
- The Physical Crisis
Each outline covers the same material, however, each outline emphasizes different things about the material.
- Formal outline - Focuses on knowing the story, its progression and characters. This outline helps the student explain the story and the characters to someone else. The goal is familiarity with the book of Job.
- Compressed outline - The objective here is to interpret the story in a brief form while giving it meaning and context. The goal is to summarize the story in a relevant and easily remembered way.
- Thematic outline - Here, one tries to understand what the story teaches concerning a particular religious or theological principle. The goal is to see what the story means. This outline style will be our approach to the study Job.
Faithful Living in Times of Crisis
Following this thematic outline will mean that we'll have to stay focused on Job's attempt at a faithful life despite the various crises that he faces. This is difficult because there is a natural curiosity to get a better look at the drama of the terrible things done and said to him throughout the book. It's like a wreck on the highway, we want to see the damage to the cars involved in the accident, we want to find out if anyone's hurt, and if so, what kind of injuries. We're less interested in how the drivers feel or think about the accident itself.
In Job's story, there are many tragic events and heated words about why these horrific things have happened to a seemingly good man. Like the highway wreck, we mustn't be distracted by the damage created by the debate but instead keep our attention on how Job maintains his faith while undergoing these various trials.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that we're observing how Job maintains a measure of faith, not perfect faith. You see, if there is one thing we learn from Job's experience it is that even the best of us doing our utmost only achieves a measure, an incomplete faith and not a perfect faith.
When we study Job, we are examining this particular man's experience of faith and not necessarily the "ideal" of how one should express faith, even if Job's belief and tenacity were remarkable as one who lived in the period of the Old Testament with its limited point of revelation.
The Thematic Outline - Faithfulness in Crisis
1. The Physical Crisis - Ch. 1-2:10
A. Introduction (1:1-5)
The crisis in Job's life is preceded by a brief introduction of Job himself. The name Job means, appropriately enough, he who weeps.
1There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. 2Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. 4His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually.
- Job 1:1-5
In this short sketch we learn that Job was:
- Blameless and upright - Complete as to his mind and heart; straight and correct as to his moral conduct.
- Feared God - Had a continual reverence for God which served as his motivation for justice, truth and efforts at personal goodness.
- Turning away from evil - He was a man who avoided evil. He had no fascination, attraction to or curiosity for evil things. He was proactive in avoiding every occasion or even appearance of evil or ungodly people and things.
- He had a large family - (seven sons, three daughters) His wife is not mentioned here which may be a clue to her eventual reaction to his suffering.
- He was a businessman - We learn that he is a man of a great wealth invested in the transportation/shipping of goods (3,000 camels); the production of food and clothing (7,000 sheep); farming (500 yoke of oxen); production of milk and personal transportation (500 donkeys).
- Many servants - He had a large household of servants who worked his land, animals and business ventures, as well as managed and cared for his home and estate.
- Aside from his personal wealth, he was held in high honor by his countrymen and considered greatest among them.
- In addition to all of his wealth, we learn that unlike many rich families where there is jealousy and competition among the siblings, Job's family maintained a close-knit and loving attitude among themselves.
- Finally, in contrast to his personal wealth and power, we see Job very careful in offering sacrifices to God on behalf of his children, just in case in their youthful inexperience or ignorance they may have neglected to do so or be reverent in their youthful celebrations.
This introduction, among other things, gives us the picture of a man who was the least likely to be the target of the wrath of God, since at that time it was believed that Job's blessings were a visible sign that he was a righteous man.
The theological equation simply said that:
- Good men are blessed.
- The way of sinners is hard.
In other words, good men will prosper and evil men will be cursed in this life here on earth.
B. Satan Questions Job's Piety (1:6-12)
6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the Lord and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." 8The Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." 9Then Satan answered the Lord, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face." 12Then the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
- Job 1:6-12
This short dialogue between God and Satan provides the reason for Job's coming trials:
- God allows Satan to test the integrity of Job's faith.
- Satan claims that Job's good character is based on his many blessings and if some of these are suddenly removed he will turn against God.
The key here is that not only are God and Satan aware of the true cause behind the trials rained down on Job, so are we, the readers. Job, as well as his family and friends are not in the loop. Keep this in mind.
C. Job's Suffering and Loss (1:13-2:10)
The author gives us a brief summary of the devastation that Satan brings into Job's life:
1. Loss of property and children - 1:13-19
- Loss due to people (Sabeans - a desert tribe) steal his oxen.
- Loss by nature (lightning) lost servants and sheep.
- Loss due to people (Chaldeans) take his camels and his servants.
- Loss by nature (wind/tornado) kills his family.
2. Job passes this initial test - 1:20-22
20Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21He said,
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord."
22Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
This is Job's finest hour in that he suffers unimaginable loss all at once but:
- He does not curse or blame God, he actually praises Him.
- He does not feel sorry for himself and use his misfortune for self-pity or anger at other less righteous men who do not suffer despite their sinful lives (i.e. why me and not them?).
- He doesn't lose faith. On the contrary, he turns to God for help and comfort by going into mourning.
3. Satan's second attack - 2:1-8
1Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Then Satan answered the Lord and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." 3The Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause." 4Satan answered the Lord and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face." 6So the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life."
7Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.
- Job 2:1-8
This second test involves a personal attack on Job's body, up to this time he still had his health.
Note that the author reminds the readers that Job has done nothing to deserve these calamities. Verse three says that his suffering was without cause. It is important to remember this point when his friends begin to speak about the reason for his suffering.
His illness was a skin disease that covered his body, not necessarily leprosy.
4. His wife's attack - 2:9-10
9Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
- Job 2:9-10
Job lost his children to an accident of weather, they remained who they were (faithful, loving, close) even in death. After the loss of his health there remains only one last comfort in his life, and that is the love, encouragement and faithfulness of his wife.
However, in one last cruel blow, he loses these things as well. The effect of the recent losses of wealth and family are demonstrated in her broken spirit as she goads her husband to do what she herself may have already considered or succumbed to:
- Curse/deny God.
- Stop defending Him and trying to act justly and faithfully.
- Escape the suffering by taking your own life. You still have the power to do this.
Once again, however, we see Job rise to the occasion with patience, wisdom and unshakable faith.
Once again, the author confirms that Job remains blameless, even with the loss of his wife's love and support.
2. Job's First Response to the Crisis - 2:11-3:26
At this point, the physical and emotional attacks cease and the author sets the scene for the next phase of Job's trials, the theological crisis.
A. The arrival of Job's friends (2:11-13)
11Now when Job's three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. 12When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. 13Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.
- Job 2:11-13
We've already introduced these characters in a previous chapter.
- Eliphaz - old, wise and more gracious
- Bildad - educated, conservative
- Zophar - dogmatic and intolerant
There is another character, Elihu, a younger man who is a local and waits until the end to speak. The three travelers arrive to sit and mourn with their friend, Job, and their period of silence, seven days, is an initial show of respect for Job who despite his losses and illness was in their eyes an honorable man.
B. Job's Soliloquy (3:1-26)
Until this time, Job has only briefly commented on the events that had befallen him and responded to his wife's despairing cry to curse God and die.
With the arrival of his friends who await some comment from him before they themselves speak, Job gives a full monologue that contains his passionate cry for the only event he believes is left for him in this life and that is for him to die.
This cry for death is outlined in three questions he poses:
- Why was I born? (3:1-10)
- If this is what I've come to (loss of everything for no reason, why be born in the first place?).
- Why did I not die at birth? (3:11-19)
- Was I given life just to suffer for no reason? Why not just take me at birth?
- Why can't I just die now? (3:20-26)
- The present suffering makes no sense, if there is to be no justice, why not just end his life now?
Job starts well but the weight of the physical suffering now joined with the weight of the theological conflict that is beginning to brew inside of him begin to take their toll on his patience and his faith.
The theological conflict, if you remember, was that Job and his contemporaries believed that God's justice was meted out in real-time. In other words:
- degrees of goodness + righteousness = degrees of blessings
- degrees of sinfulness + unrighteousness = degrees of punishment
Conflict: Why would God make an innocent man suffer, even suffer greatly?
In the next section (Theological Crisis), Job's friends will begin to explore and even exacerbate this crisis in Job's life.